Perfect Valentines Day Date: Wine Making

Valentines Date Night
Valentines Date Night

Home brewing has always been a hobby of mine that my wife has absolutely no interest in. She doesn’t mind the hobby, it is just that she doesn’t get into it. She doesn’t like beer (for the most part) and only like’s ciders and some wines.

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With Valentines Day coming up I was thinking “What if I could plan a Valentines date that not only was fun and romantic, but also got Kelly more interested into Home Brewing?”. So my idea was to introduce Kelly (and myself) to wine making. I called up Northern Brewer in Minneapolis (located just off Highway 35W & 62, two blocks North of Peters Billiards) and Kevin the manager loved the idea as well. He agreed to give us a one on one introduction to wine making class.

First off, Northern Brewer in Minneapolis is amazing. They are all about teaching new brewers and growing the hobby of home brewing. Their store is beautiful and they have a large classroom area dedicated to brewing and wine making classes that range from intro classes to advanced recipe making and all grain brewing.  They also sell online at their website Northern Brewer so check it out. (Get some directions to their new(er) Minneapolis store here).

Northern Brewer
Northern Brewer’s Minneapolis Location

Once Northern Brewer had agreed to the idea I ran it past Kelly. Turns out she loved the idea of making wine together (and I promised a good meal afterwards). Since we have 5 kids though, finding a sitter proved to be difficult and low and behold we ended up with a third wheel (an awfully cute one in my opinion though).

The Third Wheel!
The Third Wheel!

We got to Northern Brewer around 5pm and Kevin had everything ready and set up for us in the classroom area. He started off by asking us what kind of wines we liked and since neither of us are wine experts we pretty much told him the good kind. Actually my wife really likes sweet wines so Kevin recommended that we go with Gewurztraminer by Winexpert wine kits (which you can get right here if you want).

Kevin Explaining The Wine Making Process
Kevin Explaining The Wine Making Process
Our Wine Selection
Our Wine Selection

The first step in making wine, as is with making beer, was to get everything sanitized. Kevin told me that while you still need to be very careful about sanitizing, champagne yeast (which we used for this wine) is very aggressive and more wines are not nearly as susceptible to contamination as beers.

Kevin Sanitizing The Equipment
Kevin Sanitizing The Equipment

Once we opened up the wine kit, I was actually kind of amazed to see that these wine kits really only consisted of a concentrated juice, some packets of yeast (and other stuff) and a sweetener juice, really pretty simple.

Our kit had 4 gallons of juice and could make 6 gallons of wine, so we got a bucket with 2 gallons of water ready for adding later. Kevin said we needed this water at room temperature and that spring water from the grocery store is ideal (so far still like beer making).

I won’t get too detailed in the step-by-step process of making the wine but it was incredibly easy. I really couldn’t believe how easy it was to make this wine. Our first step of Primary Fermentation involved mixing together water, juice concentrate and bentonite. Once they were all mixed properly we took a hydrometer reading and came in at 1.090, which was right where we needed to be. Kevin even said we could drink the juice from the hydrometer, which Kelly loved and finished off. The last step in the primary fermentation was to add the yeast and cover. Step 1 Done.

Mixing In The Juice Concentrate
Mixing In The Juice Concentrate
Kelly Drinking the Hydrometer Sample
Kelly Drinking the Hydrometer Sample

The next step was to simple rack the wine to a secondary fermenter after 5-7, that’s it. Kevin had wines ready for us in different stages of the process so we were able to go through every step in the entire wine making process.

Isaiah Got in on Some of the Racking
Isaiah Got in on Some of the Racking

The third step in the process was to stabilize and de-gas the wine. This process involves removing all of the CO2 gas that was created during the fermentation process. This was the hardest part, and by hardest I still mean super easy. We had a mixer attached to a drill which we ran in the wine for about 10 minutes before the battery died. I asked Kevin if it had been stirred enough and he smiled while handing me a hand mixer. Dull, but easy.

De-Gassing - Long and Dull
De-Gassing – Long and Dull

After another 8 days (or 5 minutes in our case) it was time to rack and clarify the wine in the final carboy. This is where we left the final sediment in the bottom of the first carboy and left the wine to clarify for another 14 days (or 5 minutes).

Racking for Clarification.
Racking for the Clarification Process.

The last step in the process was to bottle the wine and decorate the bottles if you should choose to, which of course we did. Bottling was no different than bottling beer. Corking was nearly the same process, just with a bigger machine. After the wine was bottled and corked, we labeled our wine and put on some decorative shrink capsules to make our wine look really fancy.

Kelly Bottling the Wine
Kelly Bottling the Wine
The Shrink Capsules are Harder Than They Look!
The Shrink Capsules are Harder Than They Look!
The Finished Product
The Finished Product

At the end of the night my wife told me that she had a great night, made some great new friends at Northern Brewer and cannot wait to go back. She actually said “I could see this being a new regular date night for us. Visit Northern and then go home to brew and drink wine”.  – Mission Accomplished!

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